Tag Archives: listening

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listening improves customer service

How Listening Improves Customer Service

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Many organizations who actually take the time to self-reflect suggest that one area they could improve is in their communication. Listening is one of the most fundamental and easily improved skills. Have you considered how listening improves customer service?

As a business consultant and organization development professional, I hear it all the time. I hear it mostly because I am listening, listening carefully and watch the non-verbal cues. Many businesses believe they are too good to change.

Their focus is either on the CEO’s area of expertise, often a technical skill, or on getting more sales. Neither of these are a problem, until; their focus becomes their blind spot.

Blind Spots

I’ve heard CEO’s of small businesses ($15k – $65k annual revenue) repeatedly suggest that they are too big to fail. Some of them flat out say it. Others are saying it when you listen through the words.

If you’re following along closely, you might wonder why I’m even in the room? Think about that for a moment. Honestly, I’m typically there because someone on the team has suggested to bring me in and the top brass tolerates it because they hope it will silence the team.

Now, I’m not bashing my clients, not at all. I’m honestly trying to help. However, too big to fail sometimes equates to too big to listen. This is most likely why the second string in the C Suite has recommended we work together. The first string tolerates it, again hoping to calm the restless.

Besides, they would never want to be accused of not supporting the team. The team needs this, but perhaps they do not, at least that may be the thought.

Customer Service Connection

The customer service connection should be starting to become clear. We’re in a service oriented economy. That isn’t really new, it has been shifting for decades, and many believe that it is accelerating.

In a service economy, the most valuable core principles should be closely aligned with [customer] service. This is important internally and externally. It is important for sales, brand promise, and understanding lifetime value.

Where are most organizations focused? They are focused on the external, closing the sale, increasing profit, and forging new relationships. Certainly, of course they are, as they should be. However, their focus on external push often eliminates listening to the service requirements.

Listening Improves Customer Service

How does this happen? Too big to fail, equates to too big to listen, which makes their actions and behaviors consistent with too big to care.

Caring is one of the most violated principles in a service economy. They may care, but sometimes they care incorrectly. Caring about closing the sale is sometimes not the same as caring enough to listen.

Listening, that is where it all starts. Not hearing, but listening.

In case you’re wondering, there is a difference.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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being heard appreciative strategies

Being Heard : 15 Ways to Get Better Listeners

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It seems that there is always a lot of talk. The question might be, “Are you being heard?”

In my business as a consultant, professional speaker, and corporate trainer there is always an interest in listening. There are books, videos, and seminars that reach out to people about mastering the skills of exceptional listening.

Workplace Concepts

It seems that the responsibility for information intake is in the hands of the listener, not the person speaking. If you’re really hoping to be heard you might be thankful for those who have great listening skills.

In the workplace the concept often is: respect me because I am talking, listen better because I’m providing value. The idea of speaking to one, or hundreds might appear to be about push, but what if it was about pull?

What if it is more about people being interested, drawn in, and compelled to hear what you have to say? How do you create that environment? What makes people want to listen?

There was a series of popular television commercials in the 1970’s and 1980’s whose tagline is well known to many of the baby boomer and gen X population. The tagline is, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

E.F. Hutton was known by many as one of the most respected financial firms in the United States. Its commercials often featured investors in conversation at crowded places and when E.F. Hutton was mentioned everyone stopped to listen.

Being Heard

Is being heard about respect? Many people will tell you that respect is earned.

If you want to be heard what you might want to push for is earning more respect. Here are fifteen ways to do it:

  1. Take responsibility
  2. Listen first
  3. Stop blaming
  4. Acknowledge good work
  5. Compliment others
  6. Build people up
  7. Appreciate honest efforts
  8. Gossip less
  9. Worry about your attire, not others
  10. Don’t bully
  11. Tell the truth
  12. Be helpful
  13. Don’t judge
  14. Value people
  15. Be kind

The next time you talk, will anyone be listening?

Perhaps the best way to capture listeners is with respect.

Be heard.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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Understanding First, Offering Opinions Later

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When you master the skill of understanding first and offering your opinions later you might find some big changes in your life or career. Taking aggressive positions on subjects or arguments typically doesn’t lead the way to the best relationships, or the best opportunities for career advancement.

Understanding first appreciative strategies

For the Baby Boomer and Gen X population it might be Stephen R. Covey, who first brought forward the idea of, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. This represented an entire chapter in his 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Understanding First

Whether consciously known to them or not, great communicators often follow Covey’s advice.

There is much more to be gained by being a better listener, seeking to understand, and evaluating the possible root causes of a miscommunication, a complaint, or a disagreement rather than quickly jumping to conclusions and assertively expressing your opinion.

When you’re seeking first to understand you’re either thinking to yourself, asking questions of others, or perhaps both. Here are a few thoughts or questions that might be helpful:

  • What makes them (the other person) feel so strongly about their point?
  • What background or past experiences have caused them to draw this conclusion?
  • Do they seem considerate for mutual interests and compromise or are they taking a position?
  • Are there any emotional triggers that anger them or make them adamant about their conviction?

Unfortunately current societal trends are sometimes supporting being the loudest, nastiest, or angriest you can be regardless of the consequences. Just because you can do it, doesn’t always mean it is a good idea.

Opinions Later

Read that email you just received carefully and without bias. Listen carefully during conversations. Do your homework, read the book, or study from the diagram. Do it metaphorically or do it literally, but make sure you do it.

Ask open and honest questions, appropriately engage with others, and avoid having expectations or predetermining outcomes that support only your own agenda.

Your opinions might be important, valuable, and serve your position well, but only deliver them with the utmost courteously and respect.

Do as Covey suggested, “Seek first to understand.”

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+


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Start Listening For Facts, It Might Change Your Career

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People talk, and sometimes people listen. Have you ever truly considered what you are hearing? Are you listening for facts?

Listening for facts

One of the biggest struggle spots with our communication, or perhaps miscommunication comes from our listening skills. Of course this is not a surprise but have you ever stopped to consider how you are speaking or what you are hearing?

Listening is not the same as hearing. We hear sounds, noises, and even voices. Hearing is instinctual, it comes naturally. Listening is a developed skill.

Speaking With Opinions

Many people speak with opinions. They offer their beliefs, values, or understandings as being factual even though they might be nothing more than their opinion.

  1. We went to the movies last night and saw the best movie ever!
  2. Try the peanut butter pie at Frank’s Restaurant on the corner of 4th and Elm. They have the best peanut butter pie.
  3. Sally is such a morning person.
  4. I’ve known Jack for years. He is a really nice guy.
  5. Please email me the report when you are finished. I need it sooner rather than later.

While we are navigating our life or our workplace, we often accept what we hear as being completely factual. In addition, misunderstandings often happen when our message is not clear.

Listening For Facts

Let’s consider the statements just presented, only this time, let’s look for them to be more factual.

  1. We saw a great movie last night. I thought it was the better than most because in the end the underdog came out on top.
  2. I’ve had peanut butter pie at many restaurants, the one I like the best is at Frank’s Restaurant on the corner of 4th and Elm.
  3. Sally always gets to work in the morning before I do.
  4. Whenever I see Jack he smiles and shakes my hand.
  5. When you finish with the report please email it to me. I need it before my 9:00 AM meeting tomorrow.

Clearer, more precise, perhaps a little longer sometimes, but speaking with facts helps everyone develop a better understanding. One problem is that many of us not only speak with our opinions, but we try to make it very compelling so the listener is accepting it as being factual.

Career Changer

There is great value in understanding more about facts and opinions, especially when buying or selling. When you are selling, you’ll want to be very compelling. Even when it is just your ideas being sold to your boss or the board of directors.

Listen to yourself, be aware of the messages you are sending. We might have strong feelings about many things in life, but if we want accuracy we should be more careful about how we communicate.

Consequences for not understanding the difference between a fact and an opinion can be big. Miscommunication and misunderstandings are costly for businesses and perhaps costly for your career.

When we are hurried or trying to do two things at once, we often don’t listen well. That is a fact.

Take the time, or make the time. Start listening for facts.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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Customer Needs, Understand Them or Wish That You Had

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Knowing exactly what they want might be better stated as, “I think I know exactly what they want.” Fast, friendly, and courteous are all things that are synonymous with exceptional customer service. Understanding customer needs might not always be so simple.

Customer needs

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who insists on finishing your sentences? I know I have, and I know I’ve been the one finishing the sentence for others from time-to-time.

Usually it isn’t so much that we believe we know it all, it is probably more about demonstrating we are on the same page. At least, that might be what we tell ourselves.

Ride a bike, lift some weights, run, jog, or walk, exercise takes energy. The same is true for being a great listener, having extreme concentration, and even for reading a book.

Do you work hard to understand your customer’s needs?

Customer Needs

If you’re going to understand your customer, you’re going to have to listen, and therefore you’re going to have work hard to understand. Finishing a sentence might signal you’re on the same page or it might signal that you don’t have time to listen.

If you’re going to understand what the customer wants or needs you should consider doing more of this:

  1. Make time. Being hurried seldom helps. Signal that you have the time or will make the time.
  2. Arrive. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you are first or last, what will matter the most is that you arrive. Mentally and sometimes physically.
  3. Be patient. Not everyone wears their emotions or thoughts on their sleeves. Allow for expressions of pain points. Practice patience.
  4. Assume nothing. Thinking you know the immediate answer to their problem sometimes works, it also sometimes doesn’t. Assume less often.
  5. No anger. Anger never helps. Passion is good but getting emotional probably isn’t going to help you learn more about their needs.

Engage with your customers, do the math, get on the same page. Use your energy because understanding customer needs isn’t always about a race, nor is it necessarily about being first. In addition, it’s almost never about being rushed or hurried.

Sometimes trying to be first just might make you last, or in the eyes of the customer, to not exist at all.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+


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Are You Listening With Empathy?

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Listening is an interesting skill, and it is important to note that listening is not the same as hearing, listening is a developed skill. People who are listening with empathy are listening for understanding.

listening with empathy

Have you ever been in a one-on-one or small group conversation and someone surprisingly asks a question or makes a specific statement about something that was clearly stated only a few moments ago? Not a follow up question or statement, but one that seems to be exactly the same information that was just presented by someone else. Perhaps, in order to not lose their current thought they keep processing it over and over and while doing so they are not listening. Then when there is a pause in the conversation they blurt out what is on their mind. If you’ve ever experienced this you know how strange it feels, if you haven’t hopefully you are not the one who is committing this social blunder.

Many people proudly state that they have the ability to multitask. While it is true that we may be able to walk and chew gum at the same time many experts agree that our thinking and perception processes are truly via a single channel. We might be able to spend a nanosecond here, and a nanosecond there, and give the appearance or illusion of multitasking but true cognitive multitasking doesn’t occur. So when you are thinking, processing, or trying to remember your rebuttal while someone else is speaking chances are pretty good you are not listening.

Given that we do not have a disability or physical problem with our hearing, we hear noises, sounds, and even voices, but listening is about processing the information, developing an understanding of what is being said, processing some more, and then perhaps offering a response. Perhaps many times we’ve heard that people fail to listen to understand, and that they listen only to respond.

Listening with Empathy

Listening with empathy is important for many reasons. If you are in a leadership position of any kind it might be important that you develop this skill so that you are not listening to agree or disagree, but to develop a deeper understanding. If you are in customer service, sales, or many other workplace roles it might be critical that you are not quick to form judgment, be biased, or stereotype people during a conversation. Listening with empathy is not sympathy, other than sounding similar they have little to nothing in common. If you are listening with empathy you are listening for understanding.

Are you a fast moving multitasking extraordinaire who can finish someone else’s sentence? Don’t count on it. Do you observe others in your workplace or those who you frequently converse with and after some period of time you are convinced you know what they are about to say in any given conversation? Don’t count on it.  Great listeners are not judging, they are not assuming, and they are not listening to respond. They are listening to understand.

Listen with empathy.

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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3 Skills Boomers Need To Stay Competitive

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It is in the news every day. Millennials this and boomers that, millennials are quitting, and boomers need retirement money. Millennials are on their phones, and boomers won’t change. Human resource professionals grow tired of the complaints and the revolving door. While we single handedly won’t solve all of society’s issues overnight, we can take steps to realize the root causes of some of our worst problems and create a path to ease our pain.

046762709-smiling-businesswoman

Boomers are looking for jobs (and job security) just as the millennials are, and let us not forget traditionals, generation X, and generation 9/11 people. Boomers still represent a large portion of our active workforce, and while large numbers are retiring others are trying to solidify their presence.

Here are three skills that every boomer should be sure they master:

1. Illustrate. Saying is not doing, and being able to talk about issues and taking action are certainly two different things. Boomers need to illustrate that they are eager to learn, that they have empathy, and that they work towards commonalities not just express differences and expect conformity.

2. Listen. One of the most talked about, but often not heard, is the importance of good listening skills. This includes things such as, think before you speak, be curious of the perspective of others, and be patient while seeking to understand.

3. Change. Change surrounds us and it isn’t centered on any generation. While it may be natural to feel some fear when the unexpected occurs all generations need to learn to expect change. Workplace survival may depend on every person being willing to break a tradition, approach something different with an open mind and less resistance, and of course, be willing to embrace new technologies.

If you’ve read this carefully you will probably quickly recognize that there are far more than just three skills to consider. However, when we package them into three specific areas it may help to make practicing to be more competitive, easier.

Are you competitive?

– DEG

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker, and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at DennisEGilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.


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